Every morning at 7 a.m. for the last 35 years Maria’s Bazaar opened up. Early risers would trickle in for an egg sandwich and coffee, or oatmeal, or any number of the sweet pastries that were fresh. They’d take out or eat in the convivial confines of the dining area, often sitting for quite some time, meeting friends, starting another Woodstock day.
And throughout the cycle, they’d come, working people for sandwiches, more coffee, some finer salads, more coming in later looking for prepared supper food, seeking out the fine La Bella Pasta from the cooler…
And all along, you’d find Maria Nardi, overseeing it all, her practiced Italian eye on the delicacies that filled the town’s needs, often with family involved, daughters Lisa and Nancy, husband Vinny.
And now this chapter will come to a close. The Nardi’s will end their 35 year journey serving Woodstock with a big party on Thursday, June 30, with music, food, a photo booth and more. They’ve sold the business to family friends Marwan and Safa Rzek, who own La Florentina in Kingston, and who plan on keeping the business running in much the same way while adding on their own concepts and ideas.
“I hate to give it up,” says Maria. “I love Woodstock, but I can’t stand on my feet anymore. I’m almost 79…Such wonderful people all our customers. They make you feel like a King, being in there…That’s because I’m not a grouch.”
Maria’s Bazaar opened in late 1981, in the back building of what had been Pepper’s Garage, after Maria had worked for Zen Mountain Monastery for two years prior. Lisa Nardi, who’s been actually running the business for quite a while, has been involved since she was ten years old.
“We figure it’s time for her to enjoy herself after all the hard work she’s put in for years,” says Lisa. “It’s such a demanding business, almost feels like 24 hours a day. I have four kids and I have one off to college in Brooklyn, on that’s off to prep school. I really want to spend this time and go see my kids, have a little break, a little time off. So we sat down as a family and made this decision together. My parents can also come and enjoy all the kids, and not decide who has to stay or go.” She says that they’ll all take a family vacation together to Lake George “ which we haven’t done since I was a kid.”
Lisa’s sister, Nancy Covello and her husband Dennis own La Bella Pasta, a separate business, that they’ll be keeping.
She says that the new owner have been good friends of theirs for 25 years. “We’ve had other offers through the years, but Mom wasn’t comfortable giving the business to others. We felt this was the right family to carry on the legacy. They will be a really family oriented business. Their two kids will be there. And my mom can come in and make a soup. Maria will still be floating around in there.” The Nardi family will lease the space to the Rzek family, and will retain ownership of the property, which includes the building that faces Mill Hill Road.
“Mom definitely made an impact on a lot of people,” says Lisa. “They come through the door looking for her every day.”
Maria, who will spend part of her year in Florida, says of Woodstock, “it’s the most beautiful place in the world. When I come back from Florida I love to breathe the air. I’m going to miss everybody. But I’m still going to enjoy Woodstock. Now I can go shopping.”